By Denise Tessier
You can’t pay for advertising this good, and thanks to the Albuquerque Journal, the conservative, roll back-regulation-thumping Rio Grande Foundation doesn’t have to take out ads.
On Saturday, RGF hit pay dirt with a full-blown news story on the Business page about its “unique, 21-day report on the state’s regulatory environment and what should be changed, or tossed, to spur economic growth.”
No doubt RGF President Paul Gessing has since made sure his report is in the hands of legislators – he said he was going to do so in the story — just in time to “guide” them during the session. But RGF now has the added benefit of the perceived credibility that comes with a Journal story trumpeting the report’s arrival – a news story, not an RGF-penned opinion piece — during the Legislature’s opening week.
Now, to be clear, this topic is worthy of a news story. The public should be alerted that the Rio Grande Foundation has published this “unique” report and is trying to influence public policy with it. And the public should know, as the story relates, that RGF has been sending daily emails (to those who signed up) outlining the points of the RGF-penned New Mexico Regulatory Reform Study.
The story also is helpful in listing some of the topics of those emails:
“Eliminating Unnecessary Construction Licensing”
“Build for Cost-Effectiveness and Efficiency, Not Arbitrary LEED Certification”
“Reduce Unnecessary Regulations That Drive Up Cost of Health Care” and
“End Liquor License Larceny”
The problem is that nowhere in the story is there even a three- or four-word description of what the Rio Grande Foundation is or, most importantly, how it is funded.
Perhaps the writer (whom I highly respect) had such a description in the story and it was cut. Or, perhaps he thought Gessing’s comments and topic titles were self-evident in that they are pushing a radically conservative agenda.
Whatever the reason for the omission, in the Journal this self-described “think tank” continues to get a pass, even though it would have been simple to include something of what Journal investigative reporter Thom Cole wrote regarding RGF’s funding and history as a conservative outfit, founded by Republicans, funded in major part by the Donors Group in Washington, D.C. – far from the Rio Grande implied by its name. Cole called DonorsTrust, an RGF funder and sister organization to the Donors Group, “a conservative free-market alternative to the big liberal foundations.”
The story wouldn’t have to go so far as to mention that Gessing himself used to work with Grover Norquist, the tax “reform” guy who managed to persuade several Republican congressmen and senators to sign an oath to Norquist, promising they’d never raise taxes – which is in direct conflict with their publicly sworn oath to the Constitution and the citizens they allegedly represent.
But at the least, it could have mentioned the Donors Group, as the editorial page editors do now in the end-paragraph descriptions of RGF-penned columns since Cole’s column ran.
Instead, we learn in the story how to sign up for RGF’s daily emails and where to view the regulatory reform document.
Gessing no doubt is wearing a grin.
Note: On the same day as the story about Gessing’s report, the Journal gave top billing on its Op-Ed page to a column subheaded “GOP must pound reason into the heads of Obama administration backers,” written by Micha Gisser, the out-of-touch professor emeritus of economics who used to be listed as an RGF “fellow”. Like the Journal, we’ll leave any pointing out of bias and inconsistencies in that column to letter writers.